Destination: Mall of America?

About two weeks ago, my toddler and I set out for a loop around the west metro in order to accomplish several errands, which would be capped off by a stop at Fort Snelling State Park  in order to try and catch a glimpse of some airplanes zooming into the airport.  My husband and I had a previous unfruitful attempt to get our toddler a close up view of the massive people movers of the sky in order to prep her for an upcoming international flight I will be undertaking with her.  It was dark out and we had tried to circle the perimeter of the airport on the north and west, looking for a place to situate ourselves, however, there exists an incredibly secure perimeter around the airport, which thwarted all of our attempts.  One possible viewing location would have involved parking our car on the west side of the fenced perimeter, in a rather lucrative location, where we surely would have been pegged as threat by security.  It was hard to see the planes in the darkness anyway, the lights not quite bright enough to define the shapes coming in from the sky, so it wouldn’t  have been worth the inevitable questioning and potential body frisking and we gave up.

On airplane viewing attempt #2, we finished up our errand run by picking up a National Geographic Map of Greece at Latitudes Map and Travel Store in St. Louis Park, and I buckled my toddler into her car seat, snack cup in hand, and headed towards Fort Snelling State Park.  Surely we would be able to see planes from there.  We would just squeeze it in quick before heading home for lunch.  But as we headed east on 494, I looked at the clock – ‘is it really that close to noon already?’- did a check-in with my stomach –‘pilot, we are low on fuel’ – and reality conveyed perhaps the snack cup just wasn’t going to cut it.  Rather than potentially ruining any chance at a happy plane viewing experience, I decided we better get lunch in first.

Many parents know, there are two critical things one must do when you have a toddler:  1.  Never let them get hungry, and 2.  Avoid making them overtired at any costs.  Careful attention to these go a long way in ensuring happiness in the toddler kingdom (and parent sanity-dom!).  We stopped at IKEA for their incredibly cheap lunch special, under the guise that perhaps I could also find a nice frame for my new wall map.  We left, no frame in hand, but with the purchase of one small tent to be opened up on our little adventurer’s Earthday birthday (hmm, perhaps that ‘lunch’ wasn’t so cheap after all…).  As we exited the under-building parking lot, taking a sharp 90 degree turn to the east, I was a bit taken off guard by the sound of a very large plane coming in for a landing right before our very eyes.  I had somehow not quite remembered that incoming planes from the south frequent this path before touchdown at Terminal 2.  We looped back around the huge overflow parking lot in front of the Mall of America and pulled the car in so we could get out and have a closer look.  Fort Snelling would have to wait for another day. 

Feeling dwarfed by the MOA, a gigantic artifact of our modern civilization, I posited our car near the east end of the mostly empty holiday parking overflow lot.  Before you know it, there were planes coming in at least every few minutes.  The detritus of snow stockpiled in a circle in the blocked off area bounded by 24th Avenue South (on the East), American Boulevard East (on the north), and East 81st Street (on the South) formed a haven about 50 feet in diameter for safely padding the pavement.  The sun was baking down on us in the sheltered bowl of snowplow detritus.  And the last fresh coating of snow on the ground had been left pristine for us to make fresh tracks across. 

I’ve always marveled at the story that tracks in the snow tell.  It is like a temporal kind of archeology.  We did our best to leave our own mark on history while running circles before an eventual beeline for the rumpled piles of snow chunks encircling us.  They were perfect for some low key bouldering attempts, my little explorer working her way through ‘crevasses’ between the piles and me helping her scramble up and down the sides of the ‘mountains’.  Every few minutes, pausing to squint in the sun and take in the sight of giant planes approaching lower and lower to the ground, their sound echoing behind their wake with a great WHOOSH that my toddler and I emulated.   

While there was a whole other world of people experiencing the indoor extravaganza at the Mall of America, a purposeful money making venture to create a shopping and entertainment mecca for the midwest, we were a stones throw away, reveling in other artifacts of our civilization.  Snow being shifted around from one place to another, to make room for people to park and lock themselves inside and away from the world.* 

I WANT TO KNOW:  Do you have a destination you like to visit that is temporal in nature, created as a byproduct of everyday life, that you use for purposes otherwise not readily foreseen?  What is your favorite ‘unintended’ playground?  Where do you like to explore?

*In the interest of full disclosure, we repeated this airplane viewing excursion this past week (pictures taken from this outing) before we actually did venture into the MOA for a playdate to see the newly renovated Minnesota Sea Life Aquarium (formerly known as Underwater Adventures Aquarium).  While expensive, I was impressed overall with the new digs, and it left a lasting impression on my toddler, as she has been touting ‘no touch Jelly fish’, ‘starfish’, and ‘sharks’ ever since. 

 The temporal nature of our previous plane seeking experience was underscored as the miniature snow mountains were transforming, losing some of their previous stature, melting into small scale ‘riverine’ environments.  Kind of like being way up in the sky in an airplane and looking down on the world in motion below.  I can’t wait to see the look on her face when my toddler makes this connection on her first voyage in the sky!

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~ by urbanwandernlust on March 14, 2011.

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